sinewavves wrote:...if I'm feeding good sounding things into the Mackie, does it matter that it isn't as 'good' as the rest, if I don't want it to colour the sound in any way anyway..? There are a couple of other options from Soundcraft, A&H etc in the budget end of their ranges but not sure if I need it. Thanks!
Does it matter? That's a subjective opinion that only you can answer.
The Mackie mixer is very cost-effective and, for most purposes, perfectly transparent and accurate. Plenty of commercial hit records have been tracked or mixed through Mackie mixers over the years, too.
But it's very obviously not in the same league as SSL, Neve, API, and their ilk in terms of build quality and signal path excellence.
Regarding your other options, I've always rated A&H as being slightly better than Mackie in terms of sound quality and design ethos (and I think their EQ is more usable too) , but in reality the differences are marginal. Same goes for Soundcraft. So at this level the decision is probably dominated by how the features and facilities suit your requirements.
One word of warning though: one of the most significant differences in the circuitry of a budget console like the Mackie compared to something like the SSL is the headroom. A console like the SSL can take signals at +22dBu and pass them without any problem at all. A console like the Mackie, while technically capable of doing that, often sounds rather strained and harsh simply because of the circuitry and components employed. I have used a Mackie 1402VLZ for decades and it's fine for most purposes, but I ensure peaks never exceed +6 to 10dBu. Any higher and it starts to colour the sound in a way I don't like. You might want to bear that in mind when using it to receive and send signals to an interface, and work with generous digital headroom margins.